CALCUTTA: There have been a number of student organised protests in the city since Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, albeit none on such a large scale as the demonstration on December 21, called by the student youth community of Bengal.

Abhinaba Ray, who studies English literature at Jadavpur University, considers it all the more important for those living in Kolkata to come out and protest, as they have a privilege that people in most other places don’t.

“Section 144 is not imposed here, and the support of the chief minister [Mamata Banerjee] is by our side as well. We don’t have to worry about detainment like others in Bangalore or Delhi, so it’s imperative that we do our bit to come out in larger numbers and help our comrades in other cities,” said Ray.

On December 13, students of Jadavpur University called for a Human Chain to Resist the NRC-CAA Project. A few people from other colleges also joined in to be part of the chain, which extended from Gate 4 of the university campus till Gate 2 at the other end.

Following this, close to a thousand students of Jadavpur University, the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Alia University, Calcutta University and more came together to march against the CAA and governments’ use of force in university spaces.

The students walked from their own campuses to Park Circus, raising slogans against the CAA. They gathered at the Park Circus five-point crossing after the clock had struck midnight on December 16.

A general body meeting was held at Park Circus earlier that day, where the students decided upon the call for the mega rally on December 21, extending to the entire student community of Bengal.

“Continuous fascist terror calls for sustained resistance,” said a student of Aliah University who was present at the midnight rally. “Regardless of any law passed, if the people are united in their opposition to the law, the state will never be able to execute it— and this is the time to oppose and reject the communal-fascist laws.”

A smaller protest, Artists Against Fascism, was held close to the Jadavpur bus terminal on December 18. A number of students got together to sing revolutionary songs or paint posters and protest peacefully through the use of music and art. A large poster depicting the Preamble to the Constitution of India was kept at the forefront throughout the event.

The first mega rally in the city was on December 19 at the Ramlila Maidan in Moulali. It was an open call to any and every civilian in Kolkata. Celebrities were also seen in the crowd, like the singer Moushumi Bhowmik, filmmaker Ronny Sen and artist Abhijit Mitra.

Mitra had reportedly donned a costume that involved a Santa hat, a traditional Bengali kurta and a lungi the likes of which Muslim men usually wear in the region. He identified himself as Joseph Narendra Mohammed during the rally, as a way of protesting against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s racist dog whistle at an election rally a few days before, a comment on how those creating violence can be identified by their clothes.

Finally, the mega student rally against the CAA and NRC on December 21 originated at the historic Shaheed Minar in Esplanade. This British-built monument was erected in 1828 but was renamed the Martyr’s Monument in 1969 in remembrance of all those who had given their lives for the Indian Independence Struggle.

Stall vendors who usually frequent the Esplanade bus terminal sidewalks also joined in and distributed muffins, cupcakes and bottled water to the students free of cost that day.

Jalaluddin Sheikh, who was one of those at the venue who was serving free snacks to the rallying students, said he stood with everyone protesting against the CAA with full solidarity.

“I cannot take to the streets as I have to look after my shop, and it would harm my business if I leave it unattended for too long. So this is the only way I can show my support to those fighting for the cause,” he said. He refused to be photographed.

As many as 5,000 people turned up for the rally, and walked till the state BJP headquarters at Mahajati Sadan in Mahatma Gandhi Road, which is about 7 kilometers or four metro stops away.

While Jadavpur University and Presidency University boasted the highest number of attendees, other colleges present were Techno India University, Aliah University, Calcutta University. Some outstation students had also come over from Viswa Bharati University in Santiniketan, and from IIT Kharagpur.

Students raised slogans of “Azaadi” and alternated between raising their voices and singing revolutionary songs through the length of the rally. Some of the songs that were repeated were the Adivasi revolutionary anthem Gaon Chhorab Nahi, the Bengali version of We Shall Overcome, and Kotoi Rongo Dekhi Duniyay, a composition by Satyajit Ray for the film Hirak Rajar Deshe which depicts the atrocities of a tyrant king.

“My country is facing a rather dark time”, said Reza Fazal, a student of international relations at Jadavpur University. “It has become very necessary to become a part of the struggle. Just liking posts on social media will not help make any difference anymore.”

The stretch from Esplanade to Mahatma Gandhi Road is also a cultural hotchpotch. The Park Street area is famous for its Christmas celebrations, and Zakaria Street in the Muhammad Ali Park area with predominantly Muslim homes is famous for biryani as well as beef kebabs. There is also the College Square area, for generations a site of intellectual debate and discussion.

This conspicuously planned path seemed to be an open message to the Modi-led government that it cannot tear at our secular fabric in the name of its nefarious Citizenship Amendment Act which discriminates in granting citizenship on the basis of religion.

“If the NRC is implemented, the worst sufferers will be the poor and the marginalised, and this is a fight for them” said Sebanti Mukherjee, a student of economics at Presidency University. “We have seen a lot from banning beef, mob lynchings, Ayodhya verdict and now CAA. I am glad that we are finally raising our voices, as it is now or never.”

The students raised slogans and held pictures of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Pritilata Waddedar, Masterda Surya Sen, and Sidhu among others in front of the BJP headquarters. Some walked with posters of Rohith Vemula and Chandrashekhar Azad.

There were heavy police barricades and heavier security as the rally moved closer to the BJP headquarters, although there was no use of violence on either side.

The students of Jadavpur University have given a call to boycott their own annual convocation on December 24, if the Governor of Bengal and Chancellor of the University Jagdeep Dhankar is present on that day.

The students feel that in the light of the political turmoil and brutal terror subjected in university spaces, they will not be able to accept their degrees or awards from someone who has been directly supporting the BJP and calling the anti-CAA movement undemocratic.

Earlier, when Chief Minister Banerjee had led a protest rally with her party the Trinamool Congress, Dhankar had said “I am extremely anguished that the CM and Ministers are to spearhead a rally against CAA, law of the land”, describing the decision as “unconstitutional” and an “inflammatory act”, and calling upon her to desist.

The Executive Council of Jadavpur University has written to Dhankar about the students’ unwillingness to have him on campus, and how they would prefer it to be that way so as not to spark student protests.

In response, Dhankar has stated that the EC resolution is not only juridically incompetent in lieu of the powers vested in the EC, but also that as the Chancellor, his decision on the matter will be final.

He has also claimed that if he is not allowed inside the campus on the day of the convocation, it would be an “illegal convocation”.

The students of Jadavpur University say however that they are determined not to resort to any violence and will peacefully present their opinions. They have resolved to wear black badges or bands, carry placards calling for a boycott of the convocation as well as the CAA-NRC, and to refuse to accept degrees from Dhankar under any circumstance.

[At the time of publishing, Governor Dhankar has reportedly been prevented from presiding over the convocation at Jadavpur.]

Additionally, students of Presidency University have also called for a rally condemning the CAA-NRC project today, December 24, from College Street to Shyambajar. There is an open call for anyone who opposes the same and wants to take part.